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Building A Better Experience: Damaris Todor’s Focus On UI Design

Design is an essential building block of creative work. If your branding is prominent and accessible, you’ll attract a much larger audience. Strong design is the foundation of creative success. But if you want to connect with your audience on a deeper level, you need to dig. Intuitive design is about more than just picking the best fonts, images, and colors. It’s about building on your clients’ goals and connecting with their audience through every decision you make.

At Extensis, we’re immersed in great design every day. While our clients are some of the most creative people on the planet, we’re also surrounded by amazing talent on our team. We profiled Kris Hurrle’s passion for photography in one of our earlier articles, and this time we connect with our in-house Graphic Designer, Damaris Todor. In this interview, Demi tells us what inspires her creativity and how she manages her workflow.

How did you get into graphic design and user interface (UI) design?

DT: I was fortunate to work with Mircea Mesesan at Monotone Design back in Romania. He is a fantastic designer and mentor. While working there, I had the chance to collaborate with some incredible creatives and explore different design areas. I dove into user interface design and illustration – something I was not really comfortable with and had little knowledge of.

I fell in love with interface design, and it sorta got stuck with me. UI design may seem tedious and monotonous to many creatives, but I find it challenging, innovative, and rewarding. Seeing your work come to life is something I can never get tired of.

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That’s a revealing contrast, that even though you didn’t know anything about interface design you jumped right in and found out you loved it. Seems like you took a chance exploring an unknown aspect of design, and it paid off. Can you say more about the value of taking risks in the design process?

DT: Taking a risk in design is like trying out a new flavor of ice cream; you don't know what you like until you try a few. Many flavors later, I discovered that my favorite is Honey Lavender.

I know for some, including me, it takes a while to discover what you really love doing, and others know right away. Whenever an opportunity presents itself, you should take it, push yourself to learn more, and see what you are good at.

When I think of taking risks in design or art in general, I think of Pablo Picasso and how he took a chance when he created "Les Demoiselles d'Avignon." Despite all the criticism, he took the risk to explore and painted the most influential abstract work of the 20th century. This moment opened the door for endless possibilities in visual art and design. It influenced other artists to take risks and explore new ways of creating abstract art.

I guess what I'm trying to say is that sometimes it is ok to take a risk, break the rules, go outside your comfort zone and just create.

So true… we don’t always know where we’ll end up when we leave our comfort zone. It might be something we create just for ourselves or something amazing we want to share with the world. When you’re looking for fresh ideas, where do you find inspiration?

DT: I love exploring other designers' work on Behance, Dribble, and awwwards, but I found that traveling and nature are an unending source of inspiration. Whenever I get a creative block, I take the time to unwind in the park or at the coast – there is nothing more beautiful and inspiring than a fog-heavy day at the beach. It is almost magical.

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It’s incredible what’s possible when we give our minds room to grow. Once you get that spark, what’s your design process look like? How do you move from inspiration to draft to finished work?

DT: I’m an old school, sketch it down kind of gal. I sometimes look for older sketches and ideas to spark new ones, upgrade or finesse old doodles. As artists, we all have those moments where we doubt our talent, and we disregard those messy sketches we made during a really boring class or meeting. No matter how bad a sketch might seem, I try to resist the urge to throw it away – it may prove helpful in the future, and if everything fails, I throw a frame around it and call it, “a work in progress”.

That’s another good point, about pushing through doubt in the creative process. Can you give me a recent example of this from your own workflow?

DT: I was working on an infographic. I started sketching out ideas for the illustrations inside; at one point, I started doubting myself and questioning if I was going in the right direction. My sketches were quite different from what I created before; they included subtle humor and superhero frogs. I’m glad I dared to present my idea to the team because, in the end, it was well-received.

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It’s revealing to get a glimpse ‘behind the scenes’ in the creative process. Every great idea has to start from somewhere, and doubt can either fool us or fuel us. But, as you know, it’s pretty rare that we have only one project to work on at a time. How do you manage your time as you juggle multiple projects?

DT: I never had an issue with working on multiple projects at once; I like a challenge. Some projects indeed require some uninterrupted creative time, but in that case, I turn on my favorite Spotify playlist, make a cup of tea, turn off my emails, and zone out for a while. In times of intense work, I can count on my team at Extensis to help me prioritize my projects, and that way, I have more time to work on the things that need my immediate attention.

What’s your favorite part about the work you do?

DT: The end result. I love the process, but nothing brings more joy to my heart than when people are moved by my work. Design does not feel like a task; it’s something I do every day, whether at home or at the office – design is part of my everyday life, from arranging my plants on the windowsill to coming up with a new product launch solution.

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Everything changed for our team in early 2020. How has your workflow changed in the past year?

DT: Since the pandemic, my work zone has become my apartment. I enjoy my home's coziness, but I sure miss working from a coffee shop or a city library every now and then. I find that working from home has its benefits, fewer distractions, and more time with the family, plus I can play music as loud as I want (unless the neighbors complain).

What are the most important things you’ve learned from your design work?

DT: Salvador Dali said, "Have no fear of perfection - you’ll never reach it." The most valuable lesson I learned over the years is that you have to keep learning. The design world is constantly changing, continuously improving, and you got to keep up. Trends come and go, but good design should be a constant – and that is the challenge. Admit when you don't know something, and take the opportunity to study and improve on your work.

It is in our nature as humans to evolve, and things around us are constantly changing, but I feel that good design is a constant reminder that no matter what the future holds, we can make the best of it - plus, it’s so much fun.

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Get inspired. Follow Demi’s work and find the spark for your next project on her Behance page.